By JOE REEDY
AP Sports Writer
Aaron Rodgers’ Tuesday appearances on “The Pat McAfee Show” are over for the rest of this NFL season.
Or possibly longer.
McAfee announced at the beginning of his Wednesday show on ESPN that his fourth season of doing a weekly segment with the New York Jets quarterback had concluded.
As his staff applauded in the background, McAfee said a lot of people would be happy to hear that news, including himself.
“With the way it ended, it got real loud. I’m happy that that is not going to be in my mentions going forward, which is great news,” McAfee said. “We are very lucky to get a chance to chat with him and learn from him. Some of his thoughts and opinions though do (tick) off a lot of people, and I’m pumped that that is no longer going to be every single Wednesday of my life, which it has been for the last few weeks.”
Rodgers implied during a Jan. 2 appearance on McAfee’s show that comic Jimmy Kimmel’s name might appear on a list of associates of Jeffrey Epstein, a millionaire accused of sex trafficking involving underage victims before he died by suicide.
That escalated a long-running feud between ABC’s late-night star and Rodgers. It also proved embarrassing for The Walt Disney Co., the parent company to both networks.
On Tuesday, Rodgers denied he implied the comic Kimmel was a pedophile and condemned those who do, but he stopped short of apologizing for earlier comments.
“Any type of name calling is ridiculous and I’m not calling him (a pedophile), and neither should you,” Rodgers said on the show Tuesday.
Rodgers criticized Mike Foss, an ESPN executive who oversees McAfee’s show, for saying that Rodgers had made “a dumb and factually inaccurate joke” about Kimmel.
“Mike, you’re not helping,” Rodgers said. “You’re not helping because I just read earlier exactly what I said. This is the game plan of the media and this is what they do: They try to cancel, you know, and it’s not just me.”
Rodgers last week said a lot of people, “including Jimmy Kimmel,” are really hoping that a list of Epstein’s associates doesn’t come out publicly. Kimmel, who has denied any association with Epstein, threatened Rodgers with a lawsuit for the comment and said the NFL star was putting his family in danger.
Rodgers suggested that people were reading too much into what he said, that he was not stupid enough to accuse Kimmel of being a pedophile.
Kimmel made the first appearance of the year Monday on his late-night show and laced into Rodgers. He said he would accept an apology from Rodgers but didn’t expect one.
“A decent person would apologize,” Kimmel said. “But he probably won’t.”
Kimmel called Rodgers “hamster-brained” and said that he got two A’s on his report card — “they’re both in the name Aaron.”
“It might be time to revisit that concussion profile, Aaron,” Kimmel said.
Before addressing his specific comments, Rodgers had a lengthy preamble about his grudges against Kimmel, including jokes the comic has made about the quarterback’s anti-COVID-19 vaccination comments.
Even after that, he said he didn’t care what Kimmel said about him, “but as long as he understands what I actually said and that I’m not accusing him of being on a list … I’m all for moving forward.”
The war of words between Kimmel and Rodgers also brought some tension between McAfee and ESPN. McAfee accused Norby Williamson, ESPN’s head of event and studio production, of trying to “sabotage” his program and claimed Williamson had no respect for him.
ESPN said it would handle McAfee’s comments internally.
McAfee said on Wednesday that those comments “obviously threw us in the fire as well,” but added that he stands by his words.
McAfee is in the first year of a five-year, $85 million agreement where ESPN licenses his self-produced show. That deal was announced last May and McAfee’s show debuted on ESPN last September.
ESPN announced last week that the show averaged 886,000 viewers across all platforms (ESPN, YouTube, TikTok). It averages 332,000 alone on ESPN, a 20% increase since its Sept. 7 debut.
AP Pro Football Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. and AP Television Writer David Bauder contributed to this story.